The story is set 40 years after a nuclear attack which has destroyed modern civilization. References to the attack indicate that it was carried out by terrorists and that most of the cities in the US have been destroyed. The characters have minimal information about what happened to the rest of the world, however, the lack of foreign intervention implies that the rest of the world has suffered a similar fate.
The story is told through the Old Man, whose most treasured possession is Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea which is frequently referenced throughout his inner dialogue. In a quest to restore his injured pride, The Old Man travels far outside of the known territory near his village and enters “The Wasteland”. While I can’t comment much on the references to Hemingway’s book, which I haven’t read, The Old Man and the Wasteland is an interesting story with a number of original, or at least renewed ideas. For example, the Old Man stumbles upon messages or hieroglyphs, that survivors have welded into underground steel culverts, as a guide for future civilizations. My favorite part of the story involves a modern tank versus a “Horde” of primitive, bloodthirsty cannibals which, in itself, makes this book is well worth reading.