What enabled humans to go from simple stone tools to smartphones? How did bands of hunter-gatherers evolve into multinational empires? Vince argues that modern humans are the product of a nuanced coevolution of their genes, environment, and culture that goes back into deep time.
... beautifully written ... These are books that, like passengers on a 747, see human society from above — that weave multimillennia-long narratives of gradual change shaped by geography, geology and biology. It is impossible to read Transcendence without finding echoes of the others that have gone before ... We read these books for anecdotes and insights, for tidy explanations of an untidy world. Transcendence is full of such nuggets ... At her best Vince takes dizzying leaps, making connections between archaeology, anthropology, genetics and psychology. She is especially good on the delicate interplay between genes, environment and culture ... Some of this will be familiar ... But even on well-trodden ground, Vince steps with lightness. She also avoids some of the misplaced certainty of her peers — reminding us of the ambiguity in all of this. Not least in whether we should be the apes telling this story at all.
... [a] hugely enjoyable sprint through human evolutionary history ... Many aspects of Transcendence have been explored before. And, with that wealth of palaeoanthropological and other research to draw from, most of the chapters become a mosaic of tersely introduced evidence. Read it anyway. It is at least 22 times more memorable than many textbooks, and a good story without — so far — a happy ending.
... thoughtful and engaging ... The strongest of the two sections are 'Fire' and 'Language,' with 'Beauty' becoming more esoteric and theoretical and 'Time' more scattered and difficult to follow. Overall, however, it is a strong, well-written work with solid science to back up the suggested theories. Vince may confuse biologists with her approach to species names and concepts, but that’s a minor quibble for an otherwise enjoyable and engaging read ... An engaging, well-researched book for anyone curious about the development of humanity as approached through a social lens.