I’ve decided that, “My science fiction is pasted on, yay!” stories make me cranky. These are stories that could just have easily have been set in early 21st century Earth, but are instead plopped onto another planet, or a ship or station in space. The mechanisms of travel between stars aren’t even hand-waved, they’re just not mentioned at all. The aliens are Obscure, or are referred to as “human.”
Renata Ghali is a complex character, and even I was taken in by Sung Suh’s mild manner, but that doesn’t make this story any less an episode of Hoarders set in a town so small it’s boggling that no one could have known about a community leaders/home-builders problem for over twenty years.
Yes, buried secrets (literally). Stress. A mysterious alien artifact. But all that leads up to one of those obscure endings that leaves you not satisfied, but scratching your head wondering how to interpret exactly what happened.