This sometimes surprising, always fascinating book on the history of human species examines the fossil record to explain what we know about the developmental path from the earliest ape-like hominids to the prehistory of our own Homo sapiens ancestors. For most of human existence several species co-existed, sometimes side-by-side. Why is there only us today? A lot goes into trying to answer that question, including what trait or traits characterize humanness, how early climate changes and population densities affected the speed of evolutionary adaptations, why technological advances sometimes come significantly after the structural changes that make them possible, and how early, less helpful theories of pioneering paleontologists are proving hard to shake. Central to the book is the determination of when and how humans became capable of symbolic reasoning, an adaptation author Ian Tattersall thinks may answer the question of why we are today the only humans on the planet. Did Neanderthals have that ability? It’s still a contentious issue, but based on the evidence author Ian Tattersall thinks not. The title Masters of the Planet is, I think, at least somewhat tongue in cheek. While it’s true that we Homo sapiens are the only humans left and that we are having an increasing impact on the planet, our tendency to be shortsighted is doing us no favors. Still, throughout human history we have proved to be masterful innovators, Tattersall documents this trait in us and our ancestors again and again, and that ability gives Tattersall hope for our future. This book was provided to me by the publisher with no review obligation, and the viewpoints are all mine.