I love the premise of Bernard Beckett's Genesis almost as much as I enjoyed the book. Anaximander delivers her graduate defense to a panel of stern and probing judges, which a few breaks for drinks and reflexion. Her defense covers a crucial period in her futuristic world's development, when a man and a self-learning robot were forced together to see if the robot would develop more fully. She is charting the man's possible motivations and influences, and even presents a short film illustrating her conclusions.
Charlie Stross wrote a book that also dealt with robot motivations and stuff, although in his book the robot is the main character, and the Hugo-nominated book is very annoying, with a lot of time spent having the robot grow bigger boobs. This book looks at the nature of consciousness and humanity in a more nuanced way, observing the lonely man's increased reliance on the robot from the distance of an academic report, but with the huge emotional importance that a dissertation has on the writer. Failing to convince here has huge personal implications, while the subject under study had big societal importance, and the ideas presented have universal interest. I'm making it sound dry, but it's fresh, gripping, and short. A-