Indiana Jones, make room for Irene Blum

January 7, 2013

Ballantine Books sent me an advanced, uncorrected proof of Kim Fay’s The Map of Lost Memories. Because I’m not going to check or read the finished book, note that the final novel may have been revised.

After reading the uncorrected proof, I think Kim Fay’s novel is brilliant at times, average at times and sometimes falls flat then revives to be brilliant again repeating the cycle. In fact, Fay’s descriptions were so vivid they transported me to Shanghai, Saigon and Cambodia, and I could smell and see these exotic places—some I have visited and Fay’s descriptions rang true.

The main character in The Map of Lost Memories is Irene Blum, who in 1925 slams into the glass ceiling and is passed over for a job she deserves, the curatorship of the museum where she grew up and then worked. Instead, the job goes to a man who has the proper credentials even though he does not have Irene’s experience or global connections.

This leads Irene to steam across the Pacific to resurrect her career by finding several copper scrolls that record the lost history of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer Empire (802 – 1431 AD).

Irene’s first stop is Shanghai where she is sucked into the power struggle between the nationalists and communists and barely escapes with her life. Her next stop is Saigon and from there she travels to Cambodia with her motley crew, visits Angkor Wat and then is off to discover a lost temple in Cambodia’s rugged northeast near Laos that may be the rival of Angkor Wat.

Along the way, she collects a crew of dysfunctional allies each with his or her own agenda. There is the drug-addicted Simone Merlin, who appears to be a dedicated communist out to save the poor Cambodians from being exploited by the French colonial powers.

Then there is Louis, a world renowned scholar of the Khmer civilization and Angkor Wat, who was a childhood friend and former lover of Simone.

Irene also finds romance with the mysterious Mark Rafferty, who is linked to her mentor Henry Simms, a wealthy and powerful old man dying of cancer and another reason why Irene is racing to find the copper scrolls that will reveal the history of the Khmer empire ruled by Jayavarman VII (1125–1218), the last of the great Angkor kings.

At one time, the Khmer Empire was one of the most, if not the most, powerful empires in Southeast Asia. In fact, recent satellite images have revealed that Angkor Wat, the capital of the Khmer Empire, was the largest pre-industrial urban center in the world at that time.

However, history reveals there will always be empires that rise to flatten other cultures and countries and then fall. For example: the Aztec, Han, Inca, Roman, Spanish, French, British, Greek, Persian, and Egyptian. I doubt that the future will ever see Italy rise to equal the Roman Empire.

The Khmer Empire of Jayavarman VII was no different.

I enjoyed this novel and if you enjoy an Indiana Jones adventure, this book is for you. At the end of the novel, I had a feeling that we may see more of Irene in subsequent novels as the adventure continues.

Discover China’s Three “Journeys to the West”


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The Illusion of Freedom – Part 1/4

May 7, 2012

Three things happened leading to this series of posts examining what freedom means to different people.

First, I was reading Return to Cambodia” in the February 2012 issue of “Travel + Leisure” magazine. One paragraph gave me cause for thought.  Thomas Beller, a free lance journalist, said, “Phnom Penh, once a lawless haven for adventurers, layabouts, and hedonists of all stripes for whom freedom was just another word for no real law enforcement is now praised in similar terms but for different reasons by a new class of small-business owners who see the place as an opportunity.”

Beller returned to Cambodia recently after a 19 year absence and says that the country experienced an average of nearly 10% annual growth until 2009 leading to an improved economic environment due to Hun Sen, “the despotic prime minister”.  It’s worth reading the “Travel + Leisure” piece to see how a “despotic” leader improved the quality of life for millions of his people.

In case you do not know, “despotic” means: a ruler with absolute power; a person who wields power oppressively; a tyrant.

Just how important is “freedom of speech” anyway, which may be the reason Hun Sen is considered a despotic leader — “The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia Surya Subedi wrapped up his fifth visit to Cambodia on Friday expressing concern about the lack of progress on land rights and freedom of speech in the country.” Source: Voice of America

HBO Documentary of Freedom of Speech in five parts – Part 1

 Yet, according to Beller’s report, the quality of life in Cambodia has improved dramatically in the last nineteen years. Maybe this improvement came about because of restrictions on freedom of speech that might stir up the emotions of the population/mob, which might lead to unrest, an economic downturn and suffering such as starvation and death.

Of course, to many that don’t spend much time thinking about it, it is more important to have freedom of speech and freedom to join any religion/cult one wants to join than starving or living in fear of criminals that take advantage of cultures that allow too much freedom that may lead to anarchy and chaos.

Next, a comment appeared in this site from Jo Ann—she said, “I admire this person wanting to see the world but I am an American and I believe in this country more than a country that doesn’t allow too many freedoms.”

If you think about it, there are only two freedoms that are restricted in China that may lead to jail time: one is freedom of public political speech/expression criticizing China’s government and the restrictions of religious choice. Other than that, the Chinese, if they have the money, may enjoy life as much as any American—maybe even more so.

Then a friend sent me an e-mail with a link to Carolina Journal, which reported that “State Threatens to Shut Down Nutrition Blogger.”

In this series of posts, I’m going to focus on freedom of expression/speech.  Later, I’ll touch base about the freedom of religion.

What do you consider freedom and does it really exist?

Continued on May 8, 2012  in The Illusion of Freedom – Part 2


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The Sino-Vietnam War of 1979

August 19, 2010

After the death of Stalin, relations between the Soviet Union and China turned sour while the Russians and the Vietnamese developed a closer relationship.

To counter this perceived threat, China encouraged Cambodia to take aggressive action against Vietnam. By the end of 1978, the Cambodians under the leadership of Pol Pot launched a series of attacks along the Vietnam border.

The Vietnamese retaliated with armored units and captured the capital of Cambodia on January 7, 1979.

Since 10 thousand Chinese military advisers in Camboida became prisoners, China loses face.

On February 15, 1979, China says that it’s going to invade and teach Vietnam a lesson.

The Vietnamese decided to hold back their regular army and defend the border with militia units using guerilla tactics in the hills and rainforest similar to how they fought America.

China takes heavy casualties after attacking and soon returns to China.

China has a long history with Vietnam. The First Chinese domination of Vietnam took place in 207 BC to 39 AD. The second occupation was from 43 to 544 AD.  The third was from 602 to 905 AD.  The fourth was between 1407 to 1427 AD.

Then France ruled over Vietnam from 1862 until the Japanese invaded during World War II. The French would return in 1946 and fight the Vietnamese until 1954.

This week, the US and Vietnam, once enemies during the American-Vietnam War (1961 – 1975), become allies to block China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.  Source: Goldsea Asian American News


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

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