The Neoproterozoic era was arguably the most revolutionary in Earth history. Extending from 1000 to 541 million years ago, it stands at the intersection of the two great tracts of evolutionary time: on the one side, some three billion years of pervasively microbial ‘Precambrian’ life, and on the other the modern ‘Phanerozoic’ biosphere with its extraordinary diversity of large multicellular organisms. The disturbance doesn’t stop here, however: over this same stretch of time the planet itself was in the throes of change. Tectonically, it saw major super-continental reconfigurations, climatically its deepest ever glacial freeze, and geochemically some of the most anomalous perturbations on record. What lies behind this dramatic convergence of biological and geological phenomena, and how exactly did it give rise to the curiously complex world that we now inhabit?