L Extreme plays out in album order as a track-by-track adaptation of A Love Extreme, but ironically following the song sequence generated a non-sequential narrative that loops back on itself in a series of flashbacks.
Keeping score at home? Excluding framing devices, re-arranging the chapters into chronological story would be along the lines of:
21, 3, 8, 9, 10, 23/11, 12, 13, 1, 2, 4, 5, 16/6, 7, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 24, 25, 26
(You could also argue 1/19/25 happen simultaneously & 8 is contemporaneous with 9-13. Plus it wouldn’t be too hard to convince me the unlisted epilogue actually belongs first…)
Got all that? Numbering schemes aside, it’s a wild trip. Many readers have told me Side B (8-13 chronologically) would make a good standalone novella. Some even say reading Side B before Side A is a better intro to the story. It’s a valid take.
Sticking (mostly) to the album sequence, I viewed the genre-shift of the extended Side B flashback as a bit of a twisty rug pull that pushes the story in a different direction for the second half. Using it as the hook instead of the twist hadn’t crossed my mind, but the more I thought about it the more intrigued I got.
Better still, why not have it both ways? Asking anyone to read the same book twice to fully appreciate it is too much. But what if the free sample came from Side B instead of Side A? If you dig it, you can take it from the top. When you reach the part you already read you have the option of re-reading or skipping over it without penalty or confusion. Now I really loved this idea.
Re-introducing The Ballad of Heartman & Songstress — a lightly remixed version of L Extreme side B that removes the frame story, mixes in the Jessica flashback chapters, and adds plus new Benji Hughes inspired section titles and one brand new scene. Completely standalone & completely free, featuring a killer cover illustration via Stuff By Mark.