I was 17 when I first read this book and by then I had read quite a few books by the good Doctor. This bowled me over. From the increasing intensity of its characters, storyline and arguments this book drew me. This is the third book of a generally overlooked classic Asimov series - the Lije Baley and R.Daneel Olivaw stories. The first, The Caves of Steel was an excellent book. The second, The Naked Sun was equally good, but this one was and continues to be the most memorable book I have ever read.
The basic premise is of a time when the human race has split into two factions: the agoraphobic Earthers who live in vast underground cities aka Caves of Steel; and the Spacers, descended from earlier explorers, now settled on other worlds. As the Earthers begin to shake of the shackles of their agoraphobia and seek to reach for the stars once again, so the Spacers have become attached to their new worlds with little desire to continue their explorations. To some Spacers the thought of the diseased Earthers regaining a foothold in space is just too much. They must rveise their own exploration plans and that requires the use of humaniform robots, robots which look and act like humans, extremely sophisticated machines. Only one man, a Spacer, has the expertise to construct such robots and he stands accused of the "murder" of the prototype. He alone has the skill to have destroyed its mind, he has the motive, being a supporter of the Earther's new desire to explore. He enlists the aid of Earther detective Lije Baley and early prototype humaniform robot Daneel Olivaw to prove his innocence. What follows is a well crafted and brilliantly written SF mystery novel of the highest order. If you must read one Asimov then read this one.