The Garin Death Ray

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The Garin Death Ray
Cover of the 1955 English revised edition
Cover of the 1955 English revised edition
Author Aleksey Tolstoy
Original title Гиперболоид инженера Гарина
Translator Bernard Guilbert Guerney (1st edition)
George Hanna (revised ed.)
Country Soviet Union
Language Russian
Genre Science fiction novel
Publisher Methuen (1st edition)
Foreign Language (revised edition)
Publication date
1927
Published in English
1936 (1st edition) and 1955 (revised edition)
ISBN N/A

The Garin Death Ray also known as The Death Box and The Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin (Russian: Гиперболоид инженера Гарина) is a science fiction novel by the noted Russian author Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy written in 1926–1927. Vladimir Nabokov considered it Tolstoy's finest fictional work.

The "hyperboloid" in its title is not a geometrical surface but a "death ray"-laser-like device (thought up by the author many decades before lasers were invented) that the main protagonist, engineer Garin, used to fight his enemies and try to become a world dictator. "Hyperboloids" of different power capability differ in their effect. The device uses two hyperbolic mirrors to concentrate light rays in a parallel beam. Most "hyperboloids" can destroy military ships on the horizon, and those of less power can only injure people and cut electric cables on walls of rooms.

Book cover (Russian edition).

A translation of the passage describing the device:

The rays of light, falling on the inner surface of the hyperboloidal mirror, converge in a single point, the focus of the hyperbola. This is a known fact. But here is the novelty: in the focus of the hyperboloidal mirror, I place a second hyperbola (shaped, as it were, inside out) -- a hyperboloid of revolution, made from a refractory, ideally polishable mineral -- shamonite -- endless supplies of which are found in the north of Russia. What, then, becomes of the rays?
The rays, converging in the focus of mirror (A), fall on the surface of hyperboloid (B) and reflect from it in a mathematically parallel fashion -- in other words, the hyperboloid (B) concentrates all the rays into one beam, a "filament of light" of any thickness desired.

There are two scientific blunders here:

The film adaptations of the novel were released in the Soviet Union in 1965 (The Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin) and 1973 (Failure of Engineer Garin).

Estonian band Vennaskond has a song "Insener Garini hüperboloid" (1993) (the hyperboloid of engineer Garin in Estonian).

Russian band Пикник (Piknik) has a song "Гиперболоид" (Hyperboloid) (2008)

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