Grumbling dummies and animated stick people trade informational dialogue (""You know the situation as well as I do, Susan,"" Robert says and then outlines the situation for Susan, who soon is explaining the situation to Robert, who knows it as well as Susan) in a massive, plodding, dog-eat-dog ""faction"" novel about winemakers and grape-growers in California's Napa Valley. Someone has been sabotaging Robert Mancini's vats by turning off the temp control in the computer. Mancini's great idealism as a winemaker creates a crisis wherever he turns: his own board members are after a power shift to gain control of the stock and make more profits and less prestige; his ex-partner, a greedy idiot, wants to get all the wineries together in collusion against the grape-growers--Mancini won't hear of it; and his wife of 25 years' standing has been turned into a shrieking harpy (""Then come upstairs. Now. I want fucking""). Furthermore, Alfredo Rodriguez, a Chicano, is organizing the pickers, and there's war in the valley. Throughout, the mystique of wine lends a fruity, robust hyperbolicity that approaches the great complexity but essential simplicity of carbonated swamp gas. Bickham's ""factions"" (Twister was another) wear their workmanship like blueprint diagrams on the page.