by Isaac Azimov
This is one of those SciFi classics I've been meaning to read forever, so I finally took the plunge and found it very different than I might have expected. It seemed to me like a series of short stories that merge from one to the next without apparent demarcation.
On the first part, I was expecting something with a lot of tech and robotics, but discovered a heartfelt story of a little girl and her best friend, a robot that was programmed to take care of her. Over time she humanizes the robot, calls him Robbie, and becomes very attached to him. It is this emotional attachment that worries her mother so much that she decides the robot has to be removed from her daughter's life.
Attempts are made to replace the robot with a dog and with other children to play with, but the girl's obsession for her 'best friend' overshadows every attempt to placate her.
I was jolted out of this story a little suddenly, when someone else from further in the future took over telling the girl's story and making comparisons to the changes in robotics since. This flowed into a story about robots being used to mine asteroids and something that goes wrong when their human overseers are not present.
Then from this story, which does reach a satisfying conclusion, new characters emerge again to demonstrate the first rule of robotics: that a robot can never hurt a human. This part has some interesting speculations that modern scientists working in the field of Artificial Intelligence would be well advised to consider.
In general I found Azimov's writing very dialogue heavy, but he does have a skill for moving the story along through that dialogue and doesn't get bogged down in prevarication. I probably wouldn't want to read him as a steady diet, but I will give his Foundation series a try, if only to fill the gaps in my science fiction reading history. These books are, after all, considered the classics of the genre and the forerunners of everything that came after. Though a little dated, it's interesting to see speculations about robotics from a 1950s perspective.