The Garin Death Ray

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 Garin Death Ray
Cover of the 1955 English revised edition
AuthorAleksey Tolstoy
Original titleГиперболоид инженера Гарина
TranslatorBernard Guilbert Guerney (1st edition)
George Hanna (revised ed.)
CountrySoviet Union
GenreScience fiction novel
PublisherMethuen (1st edition)
Foreign Language (revised edition)
Publication date
Published in English
1936 (1st edition) and 1955 (revised edition)

The "hyperboloid" in its title is not a geometrical surface (though it is utilized in the device design) but a "death ray"-laser-like device (thought up by the author many decades before lasers were invented) that the protagonist, engineer Garin, used to fight his enemies and try to become the dictator of the world. The idea of a "death ray" (popularized in The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, among others) was commonplace in science fiction of the time, but Tolstoy's version is unique for its level of technical details. "Hyperboloids" of different power capability differ in their effect. The device uses two hyperbolic mirrors (in contrast to Wells's Heat-Ray, which uses a parabolic mirror) to concentrate light rays in a parallel beam. Larger "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 of the 1927 first Russian edition


Charles H. Townes, the inventor of laser, said that his invention had been inspired by this novel.[1]

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).

The Soviet rock band Kino was originally known as Garin i giperboloydy (Russian: Гарин и Гиперболоиды, Garin and the hyperboloids).

The Estonian punk band Vennaskond has a song "Insener Garini hüperboloid" (1993) (The Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin in Estonian).

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


  1. ^ Jacobsen, Annie (2015). The Pentagon's Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America's Top-Secret Military Research Agency. UK: Hachette. pp. 207, 347. ISBN 9780316371650. Retrieved 10 November 2015.

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