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Prelude to Space

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  1,144 ratings  ·  53 reviews
Here is the compelling story of the launching of Prometheus -- Earth's first true spaceship -- and of the men who made it happen.
Dirk Alexson:
Chronicler of the greatest space adventure of all time, he was chosen to immortalize the incredible story of the men and their heroic mission.
Sir Robert Derwent:
Direct-General of Interplanetary -- London Headquarters for the intern
Mass Market Paperback, 179 pages
Published 1976 by Del Rey (first published 1950)
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Jun 29, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's really not much plot at all, and it's mostly interesting as a historical artefact, being a speculation of space travel before actual space travel ever happened. Still, the enthusiasm and optimism (though sadly misplaced, as history has shown) is infectious. ...more
Dec 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is perhaps fitting that, on the centenary birthday of Sir Arthur, I re-read and review Sir Arthur’s first published novel, Prelude to Space.*

This was one of the first of Sir Arthur’s novels that I read, though not the first. I had actually come to his work through his short stories, such as The Star (1955) and The Nine Billion Names of God (1953), before finding a copy of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) in my school library.

Prelude is not a book of the same calibre of 2001. And yet its quiet man
Matthew Kresal
As hard as it may be to believe that the Moon landings occurred fifty years ago, it seems equally hard to believe there was a time when people were still imagining it happening for the first time. One of those who did so was science fiction titan Arthur C Clarke whose first published novel Prelude to Space conceived such an endeavor. Though first published in 1951 and imagining events in the 1970s, it makes for enjoyable reading.

In part, that's because of what Clarke got right. There's a crew o
Oct 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Now—contrary to a general belief—prediction is not the main purpose of science-fiction writers; few, if any, have ever claimed “this is how it will be.” Most of them are concerned with the play of ideas, and the exploration of novel concepts in science and discovery. “What if…?” is the thought underlying all writing in this field. - Arthur C. Clarke

This is Arthur C. Clarke's first published novel, and it's interesting as a historical piece. The author was clearly off in his prediction of a 1970s
Jun 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
“Prelude to Space” is the first novel by Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917 – 2008) and was published in 1951 in the series of Galaxy Science Fiction novels. Originally this short novel was written in 1947. According to the introduction which he wrote, Clarke wrote the entire novel in just 20 days, but it took a while to get it published even though he was a successful writer of short fiction. The story is about the first manned mission to the moon. Some of the correct predictions that Clarke made inclu ...more
Phil Giunta
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
In 1976, historian Dirk Alexson is sent to England by the University of Chicago to document for posterity the first manned mission to the moon sponsored by a private company called Interplanetary. While in the UK, he interviews and befriends some of the scientists and administrators involved in the project and receives a number of lessons in astrophysics and engineering.

However, Alexson is given very little face time with the crew of the Prometheus until they fly to the deserts of Australia for
Patrick DiJusto
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
This 70 year old book is the ur-example of something sadly missing in the world today: optimistic science fiction.

Written in 1947, Prelude to Space is the story of the launch of the first crewed rocket to the moon in 1978. Because Clarke was a proud Englishman, (and because in 1947 the British Empire was more or less intact) the moon mission is a UK affair, with some help from their American junior partners.

In this, his first novel, Clarke's style is didactic, almost to the point of being Gernsb
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
70 years after Clarke wrote Prelude to Space, I finally have read it. Of course, the story seems dated, after all, it was written more than 20 years before the first real moon landing, 3 years before I was born. But all in all a good story, and as Clarke admits in the preface to the 1970 edition I have, a prediction of the future and propaganda for space travel. I enjoyed the book tremendously.
Mar 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Published in the early 1950s, this short novel imagines what it would be like to fly to the moon. However, it sees the lunar landing as simply a prelude, instead of the dead end it has become. Very interesting.
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of older science-fiction
Shelves: 2019
This is the second time I've read this book (which has a lot of my notes, highlights, and underlining from when I first read it, and I remembered very little about it). For the first few pages, I was wondering, "why am I reading this book from the 1950 that speculates about the future of manned space flight, considering what was accomplished by the Apollo moon landings, especially 30 years after I first read this?" However, afterward Clarke's wry wit takes off and you are treated to a very reali ...more
Peter Panacci
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I had no idea what to expect from this short novella, but I was blown away by its ability to probe into the motivations and dreams of mankind, from our earliest explorations to our dreams of populating the stars. The fictional path to mankinds first journey to the moon is brilliantly chronicled with a focus on the humanitarian and existential reasons. The grandeur, depth and scope of this global project feels so much more real and admirable than what I've learned about the actual moon landing. R ...more
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
Could be titled "Prelude to Arthur C. Clarke Learning How to Write a Novel." As many reviewers have stated, there isn't much of a plot here, and characterization was never a Clarke strength. For a novel written in 1947 (Clarke's first), this look at a first manned mission to the moon is scientifically well ahead of its time, especially if one looks at the fanciful SF works written in the 40's, and I like its theme of humanity's need to keep exploring or we'll vanish. But I also liked that it was ...more
Brown Robin
Dated, obviously, but oh so good. This was written long before Sputnik, let alone the Space Race, so most of the details are subtly wrong, but the spirit of the writing, the way Clarke feels about the subject, the feelings of prenostalgia it invokes are inspiring.

There's no question Clarke loved a blessed life, and the privilege of his station conferred immunity to certain concerns, but there's equally no questythat Clarke lived on a different wavelength. This short novel is a communiqué on that
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Short on plot but very interesting, this is a well-written late 1940s prediction of the scenario of a first lunar landing. A fair amount is predicted more or less correctly. Clarke was a little optimistic, as it turns out, but after a pause of several decades hopefully more of his vision will come to pass. It's a quick read that doesn't have time to get boring and manages to avoid getting lost in scientific asides. Definitely a recommendation. ...more
Conrad Ledebuhr
If reading a speculative first moon landing from a 1947 perspective interests you, this book may be for you. However, I didn't find much enjoyment in it. While the broad concepts and ideas were all cool, none of the characters nor the plot really excited me. It was a slight chore to read, but a pretty short one. The scattered technological and speculative monologues were good, but nothing else compelled me. ...more
Catherine Patricolo
May 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi
Not Mr. Clarke’s finest unfortunately. Historically interesting, but doesn’t carry the luster it must have long ago before space travel was a reality. Also, not much of a plot and no characters to care about. Overall he phallic cover is the most memorable part. I really had to force myself to finish it.
Jun 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Clarke's books seem to be focused on the time just before the climax of the plot. It's an awkward place to end books because I finish his books feeling frustrated and despondent.

It's like he tried very hard to avoid the science in the science fiction and I'm usually left wondering what the book was indeed about.
Erik Tolvstad
Aug 08, 2020 rated it liked it
I needed to frequently remind my 2020 self that this tale was written in 1947 - before un-manned rockets achieved orbit. The premise is the first manned flight to the moon (set for the 1970's!). There's a healthy dose of rocket-science-for-the-layman, and some political commentary about not allowing nationalism to pollute space exploration. ...more
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An early Arthur C. Clarke sf novel written in the late 1940's, in which he imagines how the first voyage in space came about. Interesting to read as a comparison to how the actual historical events really happened. ...more
Jack Hwang
Feb 04, 2019 rated it liked it
This is an "early" SF for the 1st space flight basing on 1940s technology. Of course the 50's and 60's technology surpass it a lot. It would be a great SF book if reading it at early 50's. However, we today are talking about the worlds beyond the solar system, thus this book loses its glamour. ...more
Jan 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
Clarke’s first novel acts as a prelude to his own style. The book is rather devoid of conflict but it is interesting to see Clarke’s vision of a moon landing 22 years before the real thing. The Epilogue is particularly interesting!
Karl Kindt
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
This is just what I expected from ACC's second novel. It focuses on science and ideas, not characters, all with a sprinkling of earnest, intelligent poetic moments. ...more
Ralph Carlson
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fascinating little novel. Well worth the read. Clarke’s first novel.
Feb 10, 2014 rated it liked it
I've always liked this book, since I first read it in the 70s. Written in 1947 and first published in 1951, it plays on the wonder of space travel that died with the men and women aboard the Challenger. But it isn't the typical science fiction novel, set in the far future, when space travel is taken for granted. As the title suggests, it's about the first step on that journey, a manned mission to the moon, and the men who make that happen.

You caught that, right? Reading the book today, it's impo
Adam Turoff
Sep 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2014
If I were reviewing Prelude to Space based on what I remembered reading decades ago, it wouldn't be flattering. I remember a dull story about that ends abruptly with a Plutonium powered rocket launched from Australia. The story misses roughly all of the romance and drama of a manned flight to the moon. A bunch of speculation was way off, like a Plutonium powered rocket that can't be inspected and is so toxic no one can go near it for decades after launch. (Heh. Decades.)

But it was a quick read,
Apr 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although first published in magazine form, this was Arthur C. Clarke's first novel, and traces its origins as far back as 1947. Clarke was, thus, among the first proponents of space exploration in the wake of WWII, and this novel is equal parts entertainment, education, and propaganda. (This last is admitted, as such, by Clarke in his introduction to this 1976 edition.) As a result, this is an odd sort of sci-fi novel from a current-day perspective.

This is a story without much of a plot, and wit
Space travel as imagined by ACC in the 50's was a far different thing than what actually occurred. For myself, I think I would prefer Clarke's "reality" to that of today.

Great Britain was a serious world power, particularly in space travel; there was no "space race" per se--countries actually cooperated. Five astronauts were considered for the first flight and the two who didn't make it took it well enough.

The Prometheus (space ship) seemed to me to be along the lines (very generally) of the s
May 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Written in the early 1950s, this book tells the story of Mankind's first spaceship, the Prometheus, a nuclear-powered vessel that will take its crew of three to the Moon. In this (now) alternative history, Britain is still a major player in the space industry while there is no 'space race' between the superpowers, but all nations worth together in an organisation called 'Interplanetary' for their common goal. Our perspective into this world is Dirk Alexson, an historian sent from the University ...more
Chuck Kollars
This is Arthur C. Clarke _pre_ '2001: A Space Odyssey' (don't be fooled by the date, this material was originally published as "Prelude to Space" in the early 50s, and written even earlier). Very well written; I see why Arthur C. Clarke was such a big deal in the field of sci-fi writing in those days. All the technical details are fleshed out in great detail (except it was already obvious as soon as this was republished that a few of the technical predictions were way off). The advantage of this ...more
Jul 24, 2011 rated it liked it
This book was written in 1947 when Clarke was on his summer holiday from King's College. It's an interesting piece of propaganda, set 30 years in the future when man is planning his first trip to the moon (using atomic rockets). The book itself is partly fascinating and partly dull. It's an interesting glimpse to see what people thought the future would be like, and what was thought to inspire the rocket engineers of the future. The problem as it's more propaganda than novel there is no real cha ...more
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Arthur Charles Clarke was one of the most important and influential figures in 20th century science fiction. He spent the first half of his life in England, where he served in World War Two as a radar operator, before emigrating to Ceylon in 1956. He is best known for the novel and movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, which he co-created with the assistance of Stanley Kubrick.

Clarke was a graduate of King

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