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The Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin (1927)
Aleksei Nikolaevich Tolstoi

Contributed by "William E. Emba"

Written by a distant relative of the more famous author Count Tolstoy, by one of the first Russian science fiction writers, this tells the story of a mad scientist who tries to take over the world, only to be stopped by the superior goodness of his proletarian workers.

Mathematical content is limited to an explicit description of the parabolic focussing that makes the death ray work. There are no hyperboloids involved.

"Engineer Garin" is an allusion to Russian writer and engineer Garin-Mikhailovskii.

The work originally appeared in 1927 and was expanded in 1937. It is this later version (untranslated from the original Russian) which you will see if you follow the link in the title above. There are at least three titles of translations into English: THE DEATH BOX (1936), THE GARIN DEATH RAY (1955, based on revised edition), ENGINEER GARIN AND HIS DEATH RAY (1987, reissue of 1955), and two Russian film adaptations (1965,1973)

Contributed by Andrus

The mathematical (physics actually) theory behind Garins "Death Ray" is not practical. The hyperbolids don't collect light into a focal point, it's the paraboloids (parabolic reflectors for example).

Science aside the book is excellent and the main character Garin has indeed a captivating persona. Taking account the time of the writing of the book, it is quite safe to say it is a genre-defining piece of literature.

The only downside of the book is unrealisticly positive "hero" and the overall idea of proletariat revolution. But then again it was written in the Soviet Union.

An estonian band Vennaskond has a song titled "Engineer Garin's Hyperboloid". In that song (as in the book by my mind) the Hyperboloid is the embodiment of desire, desperation and ambition, Garin and main female character Zoya the ultimate gamblers. You may not like them or their goal, but you just got to respect a man trying to control the world:)

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Works Similar to The Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Petersburg by Andrei Bely
  2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  3. From the Earth to the Moon [De la Terre à la Lune, trajet direct en 97 heures 20 minutes] by Jules Verne
  4. Eversion by Alastair Reynolds
  5. The Singularities by John Banville
  6. Singer Distance by Ethan Chatagnier
  7. Light by M. John Harrison
  8. The Circumference of the World by Lavie Tidhar
  9. Improbable by Adam Fawer
  10. The Flight of the Dragonfly (aka Rocheworld) by Robert L. Forward
Ratings for The Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
2/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
4/5 (1 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry, Mathematical Physics,

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Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)