Prelude to space is one of Arthur C Clarke's early novels describing a fictional first journey to the moon. As the title suggests the novel covers the build up to the launch, and the climax is the launch day itself.
This novel was written before Sputnik was launched so it is interesting to compare and see how accurate it was in it's predictions when taken with the hindsight of today and compared with our knowledge of what actually did happen in 1969. The novel perfectly captures the technological euphoria of the post-war 1950's where the world seemed to be on the brink of a new age and just about anything seemed possible. The sheer excitement of the new journey is conveyed to the reader very well indeed. This is what makes a lot of 1950's sci fi so enjoyable, even 50 years later.
I found it interesting that instead of a government led package, in this book the first rocket is an affair financed by private companies and independent backers. When this was written people could not see how a government would spend the huge expense required for a space flight (without some kind of military or imperialistic reason). When this book was written the Cold War had not quite taken the same grip as it did in the mid to late 1960's. Likewise the city to take the lead in organising the launch is London - which again seemed perfectly natural in the 1950's. The ending of the former British Empire hadn't quite been felt or sunk in to many people.
Overall this is an interesting short novel, and could be taken with George Pal's "Destination Moon", as a companion piece. Prelude to Space is nowhere near the same quality as AC Clarke's 2001, Rama or Childhood's End, but it remains a worthwhile and enjoyable (if slightly trivial) read nonetheless.