A blind teenager gets an implant that lets her see, and as a consequence makes contact with an AI. Born blind, fifteen year old Caitlin is otherwise a normal girl who surfs the web by using screen reading software. One day she is contacted by Dr. Masayuki Kuroda, a Japanese scientist who offers her an exciting opportunity; he has a method that may restore her sight by installing a neural implant that will decipher the signals between her retinas and her brain. It can function in duplex mode (sending and receiving signals) and simplex (just sending) so that it can be updated remotely.
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Meanwhile in China the government has shut down all communication with the outside world due to a crackdown, this includes the internet connections.
Caitlin and her mother travel to Japan for the operation, but although it appears to be superficially successful and her eyes now react physically to light, the signal is still not reaching her brain and she returns home disappointed and effectively still blind.
During the first software update to correct the issue Caitlin is shocked to suddenly start seeing. However instead of the outside world she is seeing an interior one; the world wide web. Once the upload ends she is blind again. She must be in duplex mode in order to see anything at all.
Dr. Kuroda travels to Canada to work more closely with Caitlin and to interpret what she is seeing and what the background noise she is reporting during duplex mode might be. They test various theories to correct the issue, Caitlin helping with her own ideas since she is mathematically gifted. Finally one day while bored and switching between duplex more (where she enjoys seeing the web) and simplex, she sees some vague outlines and realizes they are the room she is in, the latest software patch has fixed the problem. Dr. Koruda is thrilled and holds a press conference to announce his invention.
Later Caitlin accidentally shocks herself, which crashes the implant, and when she reboots it in duplex mode she is surprised to see an image of her own face. It turns out that an artificial intelligence has emerged on the World Wide Web, caused by the split from China and subsequent restoration of traffic between the two halves. The intelligence has detected Catilin's implant signals and mistaken them for an attempt to establish contact, the image of her face is its reply.
Caitlin does not realize this at first and, as she learns to read visually, the intelligence learns along with her, still believing this to be some form of communication. Eventually she realizes that the background noise she has been seeing is much more complex than it used to be.
Done with his work Dr. Kuroda returns to Japan, before he goes he tells Caitlin that they can remove the duplex mode since the software is working. Caitlin asks to keep it, telling him she likes being able to switch and visualize the web, but secretly because she has begun to suspect that the increasing complexity of the background noise and the weird mirroring of her face and other data might be a sign of something trying to talk to her.
She starts trying to communicate back but leading the way to websites where it can learn from, and eventually the intelligence confirms its existence by communicating back by email on her birthday. It thanks her, gives itself the name Webmind, and suggests they can now communicate directly through instant messenger.
Best part of story, including ending:
The premise is pretty absurd and never explained well enough, same with the intelligence's development, its unclear why it needs Caitlin at all to access anything. There is also far too much infodumping, a lot of it for things we really don't even need to know (though this is the first book in a series, so that might be the reason).
Best scene in story:
There is a tense scene at the beginning of the book dealing with a Chinese hacker trying to get the news out about the government crackdown.
Opinion about the main character:
She is not very believable as a teenager, brilliant or not, she's completely obedient and seems to have no real opinions or interests outside of the implant.