Despite what might seem like a sensationalist or playful title, the book delivers on both the fun and the sensational sides. The fun comes from the clearly and non-technically written prose that reads like a fast-paced novel, part sci-fi, part history of science and part military history. The sensational aspects are thanks to an incredibly diverse cast of characters, some legendary, some historical and some fictional.

What other book can bring together Archimedes setting fire to Roman battleships, top scientists from Roentgen to Tesla, top inventors from Gordon Gould (an inventor of the laser) to Harry Grindell Matthews (the first to propose a remote guided missile in 1915) and the crew of Star Trek?

The book includes several color plates with vintage images of laser weapons, as well as many black-and-white photos in text and one of a Soviet laser gun intended for cosmonauts (not to kill, but to knock out sensors or eyes). A long list of endnotes, with ample references, and a generous index, round up the book—a fun and informative read for the curious mind.

Review by Bogdan Hoanca, a professor of management information systems at the University of Alaska Anchorage, USA

The opinions expressed in the book review section are those of the reviewer and do not necessarily reflect those of OPN or OSA.